Friday, December 30, 2011


Back in the early 1980s, John M. Ford wanted to write an alternate history novel where Julian the Apostate succeeded in disestablishing Christianity in the Roman Empire. He also wanted to write an alternate history novel where Richard III won the Battle of Bosworth. He also wanted to write a historical fantasy about a world where magic worked. Being John M. Ford, he did all three at once and the result was The Dragon Waiting, winner of the 1984 World Fantasy Award for best novel.

It goes without saying, of course, that a world without a Roman Catholic Church isn't going to have a Richard III. It might not even have an England; that's how great the magnitude of the change would be. And a world where magic really worked would be completely unrecognizable.

Nevertheless, Ford's imaginary 15th century is so vivid that you forget how impossible it is. And like any historical novelist worth his salt, Ford included an author's note pointing out where he had changed history, and where he hadn't.

I picked up The Dragon Waiting at the Bookateria in Newark, Delaware sometime in the late 1980s, and I was sufficiently intrigued by the premises that I was inspired to read other books. One was Julian by Gore Vidal, and another was The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman. I was hooked by The Sunne in Splendour, and its 886 pages went by way too quickly. Somehow I always managed to get it back after loaning it out to other members of my family, and I brought it with me from Delaware to Rhode Island to Pittsburgh. I found other books by SKP, about Simon de Montfort, and the Empress Matilda, and Matilda's son Henry, and they joined The Sunne in Splendour on my bookshelves.

Finally, I found my way to SKP's website and blog, posting the occasional comment in the latter whenever I found something to contribute. As it happens, SKP has been giving away autographed copies of her latest novel, Lionheart, to randomly selected blog commenters, and to my utter astonishment, the latest random commenter to win a copy was me!

I've already thanked Sharon for this unexpected Christmas gift by email, and again on her blog, but third time's the charm, so once again: thank you, Ms. Penman. You are now the queen of my library!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Shamelessly stolen from Eschaton. It's Finland's own Rajaton performing their immortal rendition of "Jingle Bells":

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Joy Formidable Glastonbury 2011

Purely for my own amusement and edification, I've decided to embed videos of The Joy Formidable performing at the Glastonbury Music Festival on June 26, 2011.
UPDATE 6/22/12: Well, somebody took down most of the videos of that performance, so that's a bust. Instead, here's TJF live on YouTube Presents on March 30, 2012, performing "The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade", "Austere", "A Heavy Abacus", "I Don't Want to See You Like This", and "Whirring".

FURTHER UPDATE 10/31/12: It looks like the TJF set at Glastonbury is back up at YouTube, so here it is:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation

So, you say you don't have enough to occupy you on the internet? You say you're looking for somewhere to talk about Star Trek: The Next Generation? Well, Torie Atkinson and Eugene Myers have got the solution to both of your problems at The Viewscreen. They'll be re-watching the first season of TNG, one episode per week starting today a week from now with "Encounter at Farpoint", and they'd like you to join them! Re-live the glory days of the late 1980s, and the rebirth of the Star Trek franchise. Picard! Data! Wesley! Tasha!

It's waiting for you now soon . . .

Monday, November 14, 2011

Leave me right here

It's embedded music video time! Today's selection comes from 1997: "Volcano Girls" by Veruca Salt.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A portrait of James Street

Somehow or other, I wound up owning a copy of Life in a Putty Knife Factory, a collection of humorous anecdotes published in 1943 by journalist H. Allen Smith. In addition to reminiscences of celebrities such as H. L. Mencken and Tallulah Bankhead, Smith also talks about some of his fellow journalists and writers.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the writers he talks about is James Street, author of Good-bye, My Lady, the quintessential basenji novel. As a service to my fellow basenji enthusiasts, I now present, in full, Smith's account of Street. (Is Life in a Putty Knife Factory still under copyright? I eagerly await word from Smith's literary executors.)

* * *

(the following excerpt is from Chapter IX: Taking Pride in My Profession)

One of my best friends among authors is James Street, whose typewriter erupts novels, short stories, movies, magazine articles, and indignant letters. Mr. Street is forever working himself into an elevated dudgeon, usually over some fatheaded Yankee's gross misinterpretation of the War Between the States. He is from Mississippi, and most of his writing is about the South, and he spends long hours worrying over the Dred Scott decision, the Missouri Compromise, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. When he has achieved a proper degree of anger, he leaps to his typewriter and lets go with a long letter full of bitterness and invective. He seldom mails one of these letters. He writes them, signs them, thrusts them into envelopes, puts stamps on the envelopes, then lays them on a table and sits and glowers at them for an hour. Then he tears them up.

Like myself, Mr. Street attends the movies regularly. Whenever he happens into one involving the habits or history of the South, he comes away in a tremendous fury. I remember when he went to see Gone with the Wind. He came out of the theater cursing David O. Selznick and everyone else connected with the production. Mr. Street's violent dissatisfaction with the picture was based on one single detail: he said that in the burning of Atlanta the fools had the smoke blowing in the wrong direction.

He is a neighbor of mine and works in a room where he pursues one of his hobbies -- collecting potted plants. He has a couple of hundred plants, of all shapes, colors, and sizes, in that room, and on entering it a visitor sometimes finds difficulty in locating Mr. Street and his typewriter. Whenever I find myself in the place I unconsciously begin making Tarzan noises and start peering through the foliage for Dorothy Lamour.

I first met Mr. Street in the winter of 1933 at a Santa Claus convention. He had just come up from the South and was writing feature stories for the Associated Press, whereas I was doing the same for the United Press. One day a note came in the mail saying the department-store Santa Clauses of New York City would hold a convention at Grand Central Palace the following afternoon. This was the period of the NRA Blue Eagle codes and the Santa Clauses were assembling for the purpose of drawing up a program of ethics. A novel spectacle! By the very nature of his calling a department-store Santa Claus has to be a proficient liar -- a man as fundamentally dishonest as a real-estate agent. Moreover, I know it to be a fact that the average department-store Santa Claus hates and despises his customers -- the little ones -- and would enjoy nothing so much as running amuck in a crowd of tots.

At Grand Central Palace I wandered around in the various exhibition halls, finding no Santa Claus convention, and at last I sat down near the elevators to rest my feet. I was sitting there when an elevator door opened and a short young man stepped out. He glanced all around and then approached me.

"Begya pahdon, suh," he said, "but I'm lookin' for a bunch of dad-blamed Santy Clauses."

It was Mr. Street, and soon we were sitting down comparing notes and swapping newspaper experiences, and after a while we went wandering and found the convention. The Santa Clauses were in a little room far off in one corner of the building. There were about a dozen of them, and they had a keg of beer on a table. They were dressed in their Santa costumes, all but their whiskers which had been laid aside to facilitate the taking in of beer. If you have ever seen such an assemblage of Santas, minus their whiskers, you have seen something. And if you have ever heard them talk, you have heard something. They came in all shapes and sizes and there wasn't a jolly one in the group. Since that day I have never believed in Santa Claus.

So that was the beginning of a long and interesting friendship. Mr. Street and I sometimes go adventuring together, and while our roamings occasionally prove trying to organized society, sometimes even offending the body politic, we have fun.

There is one story I want to tell about Mr. Street but to get into it I've got to bring up the matter of the round chickens. One day in 1942 I chanced to meet a citizen of Peoria, Illinois, who was visiting in New York. He turned out to be a chicken fancier, and he said he had come East to acquire some round chickens.

"Round chickens," he said, "come originally from India. They got practically no necks and almost no legs. A hen will weigh as much as fifteen pounds and a caponized rooster will weigh as much as twenty. If they scrooched up a little and bounced, you could almost dribble them like a basketball. The poultry growers of the country are going to get wise to these round chickens. They got almost as much meat on them as a hog, and it's wonderful white meat. Once we get going with them, you won't go into a restaurant and order fried chicken or half a broiled chicken. You'll order a chicken steak."

It is the clear duty of a writing person, when he hears such a thing as this story of the round chickens, to get to work and find out all the facts, so I got to work. After a couple of hours at the Public Library I concluded that the Peorian had reference to the Cornish game chicken, or one of its kinsfolk.

Next I telephoned the Department of Agriculture's poultry division. They dug up their best chicken expert and I told him the story.

"Well," he said, "I think the man from Peoria is pulling your drumstick. If he says these hens grow to fifteen pounds, he must have hens with some ostrich blood in them. And the roosters -- if they got to weigh twenty pounds -- would be unmanageable. You'd have to build a steel-and-concrete fortress to hold roosters that big. They'd tear down an ordinary chicken house and they might even turn on their owners and murder them."

On my way home I stopped at Mr. Street's house, having remembered that in his early days he had been a chicken fancier. If these round chickens existed anywhere on earth, I figured Mr. Street would know about them. Having swallowed a good dose of quinine, I took my machete and hacked my way through the jungle of his study until I found him at his desk. We made our way back over the perilous trail until we reached the living room, where I laid the results of my research before him and did him the honor of asking his opinion.

He grinned at me and said he had never heard of round chickens and that, moreover, he was willing to make a confession.

"I was never actually very handy with chickens," he said. "It all dates back to an unhappy experience I had with chickens in Mississippi."

It appears that when Mr. Street was first married, down in Mississippi, he was a preacher -- the youngest clergyman in the country, known as "The Boy Preacher of the South." Under provocation he can still loose a sermon that'll curl the wallpaper. As a preacher he had a house and time on his hands so he decided to raise chickens. He built his own chicken house and made an elegant structure out of it. He bought a tribe of Rhode Island Reds and a flock of Plymouth Rocks, and then somebody told him that he should be careful never to let the breeds mix. He should never, they said, permit the Rhode Island Red roosters to raise dust around the Plymouth Rock hens, and the same went for the Plymouth Rock rooster and the Red hens.

So Mr. Street constructed his chicken house carefully with an eye to segregation. The building had two sections and there was a long chicken run with a fence between. This was certainly all correct, and he moved his flocks into their respective quarters.

He was extremely careful to keep Rocks separated from Reds at night. In the daytime he simply let all the chickens out into the yard together.

"Somehow," he said, "the notion was in the back of my mind that if I kept them apart at night, everything would be okay. I had this idea in my head that they only did that sort of thing at night. Before I knew it the whole thing was a mess. That's how much of a chicken expert I am."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Digital Day 111111


And that concludes the digital days for this calendar cycle. Be sure to stop by for the next cycle of digital days, beginning on January 1, 2100.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Digital Day 111011


Monday, November 7, 2011

Dog walk: 11/7/11

By long custom, the basenjis know that the afternoon dog walk is long, slow, and leisurely: I amble along and enjoy the sun, while the dogs cast about looking for Unidentified Ground Objects. The afternoon dog walk typically takes one or two hours.

By equally long custom, the other two daily dog walks -- in the evening before I prepare for work, and in the morning after I return from work -- are different. There's not enough time for a long walk, so instead we all pile into the car and drive to the local no-leash dog park. There, the basenjis can sniff around unencumbered, and get to know any other dogs that happen to be around, before getting down to the serious business of doing their business. A trip to the dog park usually only lasts about ten minutes.

Back in Newport, the municipal dog park was a brief five-minute drive away. When I learned about the move to McKees Rocks, I went a-Googling, and found the nearest dog park fifteen minutes away at Riverview Park, across the mighty Ohio. There, atop Observatory Hill, the dog park sits beside the Allegheny Observatory.

Tonight, unusually, instead of making their standard inspection of the grounds of the small dog park, the dogs seemed intrigued by something out in the dark, beyond the park's chain-link fence. Louis in particular was fascinated, staring out into the darkness at I-knew-not-what. After about five minutes of this, Louis finally gave up his staring contest with whatever-it-was, and took care of business. I wondered what it was all about. Was there another dog hidden in the darkness? A skunk? Who could say?

We got back into the car, and started making our way down Old Barn Road, the much-patched single-lane road that leads up to the observatory. Looming in the headlights on our right, I saw three deer munching on the observatory's back lawn. After slowly passing them by (with the basenjis' attention rivited), another hundred yards down the road brought another set of three deer into the headlights. I stopped and waited for them to move away from the road (with the basenjis staring avidly), then continued on my way.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Digital Day 110111


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life in the slow lane

Sorting through the boxes containing two recently-uprooted households takes a lot of time. Learning a new job also takes a lot of time. So, for the time being, I'm not going to have a lot of time to blog.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dog walk: 10/13/11

A street map of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania doesn't do the place justice. You have to look at a topographic map to see just how steeply the land rises from the Ohio River floodplain. The new house is perched on a hillside, facing west down the Ohio Valley.

It rained almost nonstop on the evening of the 12th, and as basenjis aren't noted for their enjoyment of getting wet, there was no chance to walk them then. At 5 AM on the morning of the 13th, the rain had stopped, and I decided that it was time for a walk.

We went south up a street rising at a 20 degree angle, the night sky overcast and the pavement still wet from the night's rain. There was an occasional car or truck passing by along Island Avenue at the bottom of the street, but no traffic up on the hillside.

Today was garbage day, and the dogs were inevitably attracted to the trash cans sitting in front of the houses. As we made our way up the street, they made frequent stops to sniff at plastic trash cans that all leaned slightly out of true, sharing the sidewalk's gradient. Most of the houses were decorated for Halloween with skeletons and jack o' lanterns.

The dogs were still uneasy about the unfamiliar streets, and within twenty minutes they were ready to return home. Ten minutes after we returned to the house, it began to rain again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dog walk: 10/10/11

After we realized that we couldn't avoid forclosure, my wife arranged for us to move in with some friends of hers in a remote house in the Lehigh Valley. It was while she was there, making preparations for the move, that she (and they) were informed that the house was scheduled for demolition, and that both households would have to find new quarters.

A frantic search eventually resulted in the purchase of an astonishingly low-cost house in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. And so it was that around 11:30 AM on the morning on October 10, we packed up the last of our belongings and left Newport for the last time, mere minutes before our street was closed off by the Columbus Day Parade.

Due to the odd circumstances surrounding the move, our first day's journey ended at the remote house in the Lehigh Valley late in the afternoon. By the time we had ordered a dinner of take-out pizza, night had fallen. I was ready for bed then, but the basenjis needed one last walk for the night, and so I took them.

It was overcast that night, and there were absolutely no street lights along the thousand-foot driveway leading from the house to the nearest road. Dark woods lined both sides of the driveway, and what sounded like a million birds filled them with noise. The basenjis were two dark shapes moving back and forth across the driveway, most of their motion filled in by my mind's eye from memories of a thousand such walks in the bright Newport sunshine. On each side were strange new scents to be sampled, and sample them they did. The only distinct features I could make out were the white fur of Louis' collar and legs; everything else was shadows against the deeper dark of the night.

We went slowly down the driveway to the road, and then just as slowly back up again. The dogs had all the opportunity they needed to relieve themselves for the night, though the darkness kept me from learning whether they had taken advantage of it. Then we were back in the house, and it was time for me to sleep, momentarily suspended between past and future.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Digital Day 101111


Monday, October 10, 2011

Digital Day 101011


Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Convenience Store Chistmas

I spent Christmas Eve 1999 working the graveyard shift at a 7-Eleven. It was dead quiet, so I whiled away the hours composing the (until now untitled) poem below on a piece of scrap paper. That scrap paper hung from our refrigerator door for twelve years, until this afternoon, when my wife's cousin came and carted our refrigerator away in preparation for our departure from Newport tomorrow. I noticed the tattered, filthy piece of scrap paper sitting on the kitchen counter just now, and I decided that my work deserved, at long last, a wider audience than could be found in my kitchen. So I now present to my vast global blogging audience, just as I wrote it so long ago:

A Convenience Store Christmas
by Johnny Pez

Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the store
Not a customer bothered
To walk in the door

The newspapers lay
In their well-ordered stacks
And the drink fountains nestled
By beef-jerky snacks

While cigarettes stood
Upon multi-tiered shelves
In red and white boxes
Like cancerous elves.

When out of the frigid
Millenial night
My eyes were repulsed
By a hideous sight

A huge tractor-trailer
Had pulled up outside
MCLANE boldly stood out
Upon its vast side.

And out of the monster
Came two seedy men
In filthy gray jumpsuits.
They came in and then . . .

The bigger one walked up
And said with a sneer,
"Your order for ten tons
Of sunscreen is here!"

I spoke up in outrage,
"The devil you say!
We sent in that order
For sunscreen in May!"

"Take it or leave it,"
The evil man said
I wanted to take it
And bash in his head.

Instead I accepted
And signed his receipt.
He said "Merry Christmas"
And made his retreat.

Then as they departed
And drove off their truck
I called "Merry Christmas!
I hate you! You suck!"

Dog walk: 10/8/11

Sunny skies, temps in the mid-70s. If you live in a northern climate like New England, global warming has its positive side. And as if to match the summerlike weather, Newport has summerlike crowds of tourists thanks to Oktoberfest at the Newport Yachting Center.

Today's first "Are those basenjis?" encounter took place in front of Newport City Hall, when a tourist stopped me to tell me about the pet basenji he had in his youth, and to remark on how good-looking my own were, which is certainly true enough. The second took place on Lower Thames Street, in front of Ben & Jerry's, when a couple stopped me so they could point out to their daughter what the basenji half of their basenji mix looked like.

The basenjis and I were crossing Aquidneck Park when I got a call from my wife telling me that she had just made reservations at Sardella's restaurant in half an hour. As I've noted before, I received a Sardella's gift card for Christmas, and since we're leaving town for good in two days, this would be our last chance to use it. It was a near-run thing, but the dogs and I managed to make it back home in time for me to dress for dinner, and we turned up at the restaurant at the exact time we had reserved. I had the pasta marinara with a side of garlic bread, and it was delicious.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A going-away present

I had a particularly unpleasant experience last night with some Skeptical Drunks. There were four of them, and they wanted to go outside for a smoke, but none of them was able to come up with a light. Since we're a smoke-free establishment, we don't keep matches or cigarette lighters around, and when they came up to the front desk for a light, I had to tell them that I had none.

Being Skeptical Drunks, they continued to stagger into the lobby and ask me again for a light, and I continued to tell them no, and they continued to go back out. A couple of them got tired of taking no for an answer; one of them began swearing at me, while the other began rifling through the desk of the hotel's concierge. Both refused to stop, so I ordered them out of the hotel. Instead of leaving, the one who was swearing began to add threats and homophobic slurs, and I decided to call the police and have them throw the two out. While I was on the phone, the one at the desk came over and spit at me. Hotel security arrived then, and after spending a couple more minutes spewing abuse at me, the drunks left for their room.

The police arrived and escorted three of them out of the hotel, telling them that if they returned, they'd be arrested; the fourth was apparently passed out in the room and couldn't be roused. An hour later, the three returned to the hotel, and the one from the room, apparently no longer unconscious, let them in through the fire door. I called the police again, but they did not arrest them. Instead, the two abusive ones were driven to a donut shop and dropped off there, while the other two were allowed to stay in their rooms. It turned out that the drunks were all off-duty cops from out of town, and the local cops wouldn't arrest them.

Eventually, the two abusive cops came back from the donut shop with two of their friends, and the four of them marched back up to their room. I called the local cops again, and was told that they had no grounds for arresting the drunks, and advised me to let them sleep it off before telling them to leave later on. One of the hotel managers showed up then in the normal course of events, heard the whole story, and also advised me to let the abusive drunk cops sleep it off. I gave in and did so.

I'm suddenly a lot less sorry to leave Newport than I was.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dog walk: 10/7/11

Sunny, with temps in the low 60s. Still good dog walking weather.

The basenjis and I were walking up Thames Street, across from the Brick Alley Pub, when I heard the words, "Are those basenjis?" A women was smiling at the dogs, and I assured her that they were, indeed, basenjis. She told me that she had had a tricolor basenji as a pet years before; unfortunately, he bit the paperboy and had to be put down. She adored Klea and Louis, though, as well she might.

We stopped in at the Black Dog store on Bannister's Wharf, where the basenjis are often given treats by the staff. They're having their "Black Dog lookalike contest", and though the basenjis are red dogs, I entered them anyway, since every contestant receives a free bag of dog treats, and it's against the Guild Rules for basenji owners to turn down free dog treats.

In Perrotti Park, a long line of cruise ship passengers was waiting to embark on MSC Poesia. Twice, a passenger stopped me with the words "Are those basenjis?"and of course I had to let the dogs enjoy some well-earned praise. Such is the hard life of a basenji owner.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dog walk: 10/4/11

Partly sunny, temps in the 60s. Still good dog walking weather.

We were coming down Tilden Avenue when we ran across a woman who was also walking her dogs, a pair of Jack Russell terriers. She was just entering Governors Graveyard with her dogs, who were off leash, and the basenjis and I followed her. We had crossed paths with her before, but never had a chance to stop and talk. It turned out that her dogs were recent acquisitions, one from the Potter League for Animals, the other from a shelter in Arkansas. Her previous dog, another Jack Russell, had been attacked and killed by a pair of German shepherds while she was walking him. She was still horrified by the memory, as you might imagine.

I mentioned to her that I would be leaving Newport in six days due to foreclosure, and she said that her home was facing foreclosure too. She had been trying to get a mortgage modification for five years, and had never managed it. After losing her job, she had been forced to stop making mortgage payments, and was only a couple months away from losing her house.

I wished her luck, and she wished me luck, and the basenjis and I went on our way.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Two founding Time Lords are better than one

WARNING: Blog post contains hardcore Doctor Who geekery! Read at your own peril!

I was reading Charlie Jane Anders' review of the Doctor Who season six finale at io9, and was intrigued by her mention of something call the Cartmel Masterplan, which I had never heard of. Basically, late-1980s script editor Andrew Cartmel wanted to retcon the Doctor's backstory in order to restore some of the mystery that had been a feature of the series' early years. To this end, he decided to make two of the founders of Time Lord society, Omega and Rassilon, into contemporaries.

Omega was first introduced in "The Three Doctors", a 1973 serial which celebrated the series' 10th anniversary by bringing back Third Doctor Jon Pertwee's two precedessors, Richard Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. As revealed in the story, Omega was a legendary figure among the Time Lords -- so legendary, in fact, that he was widely regarded as a myth until the Doctors learned that he A) was real; and B) had been trapped in an antimatter universe for untold ages. Omega died at the end of "The Three Doctors".

Rassilon was first mentioned in "The Deadly Assassin", a 1976 serial where Fourth Doctor Tom Baker returns to Gallifrey to prevent an assasination. Rassilon himself was revered as the ancient founder of Time Lord society, and two relics associated with him, the Sash and the Rod of Rassilon, play a part in the story's finale.

Note the different ways the Time Lords viewed them. Omega was a mythical figure whom nobody believed had been a real person. Basically, he was the Time Lord King Arthur. Rassilon, OTOH, was a thoroughly historical person. In the 1980 serial "State of Decay", the Doctor is able to read a document written by Rassilon himself, and in the 1983 20th anniversary special "The Five Doctors" much of the action takes place in Rassilon's tomb. In other words, Rassilon was the Time Lord Alfred the Great.

So, you had a mythical Time Lord founder from a time of legends, and a historical Time Lord founder from ancient history. And that was a good thing. It gave Time Lord society a sense of depth. And then Andrew Cartmel had to go and spoil it by trying to make the two men contemporaries for no good reason. Fortunately, the original series ended before Cartmel could make his stupid idea canon, and the new series has killed off all the Time Lords except the Doctor himself, so the question is moot.

But the idea is out there. There's always the chance that executive producer Steven Moffat, or one of his successors, will run out of ideas for the show, and decide, in desperation, to bring this one back from the grave. I live in fear of that day.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Digital Day 100111


Friday, September 30, 2011

Dog walk: 9/29/11

A foggy morning has given way to an overcast day, but with temperatures still in the 70s, it's a good day to walk some dogs. As usual, the basenjis spend some time early in the walk policing the front lawn of Newport City Hall, just in case someone has left something edible on municipal property. By law in Newport, all food found on municipal property must be left in place for passing dogs to consume.*

Three people were sitting on the bench in front of City Hall, and one of them happened to be a young army veteran. The three found the basenjis fascinating, as people so often do, and the vet asked if the dogs would like half an oatmeal cookie from his MRE. I saw no reason not to, so he broke the cookie in two pieces (with some difficulty), and gave each to one of the dogs. While they were enjoying the treat, the vet remarked on how fitting it was that the dogs enjoy them, given how similar the cookies were to dog biscuits. When the cookie was gone, I thanked the vet, and set off with the dogs.

Perrotti Park was again full of cruise liner passengers, this time off the ms Eurodam, which was on the final leg of a twelve-day cruise from Quebec City to Ft. Lauderdale. It may have seemed like a good idea to someone at the Holland America Line to combine the names Europe and Amsterdam for their latest cruise liner. Apparently nobody told them how amusing the name sounds to Anglophones.

Later in the walk, I was approaching Mary Street when my phone rang. It was my wife, and she wanted to know if I would like to go out for dinner as a belated birthday present. I remembered receiving a gift card for Sardella's restaurant for Christmas, so I suggested that we eat there. My wife couldn't find the Sardella's gift card, but she did find one for the Brick Alley Pub, so that became our new destination.

I brought the dogs home, and joined my wife in her car for the drive to Thames Street. Just as we were pulling onto Broadway, I saw the army vet coming up the sidewalk. He recognized me, and we waved to each other.

*Not intended to be a factual statement.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I take a chance

It's time for another embedded music video. From 1993, it's Eve's Plum with "I Want It All".

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A message from Fred Hiatt

Gud day.

As yoo no, we heer at the Washenton Poast hav alweez bin in the forfrunt of Amercan jernalism. So ime plezed to anouns that we hav takin the next step in craften are paper in too the ledin news sors in Amerca. Yestrday, i lade off are last remanin copy editers. Becos the Washentin Post is in the news biznis, not the copy edit biznis.

This importint step haz freed up the resorses too alow us to hier wun of the ledin jernalists of are time, Ms. Pamela Geller of the Atlas Juggs blog, as a weekle commist. Sum may say that a blogger haz no plas in sirios jernalism, but my frend John Bolton asherd me that Ms. Geller haz the nesasary kwalificshns cualaficashuns skilz, + after a lenthee personl intervyu with her ime convinsed that she duz. Ms. Geller wil be bringin her ecksport nollej of Midl Erth Estern afarz to the Post, + we heer coodnt be hapier.

With the adishun of Ms. Geller, the Washintn Poast wil kintinyoo its prowd tradishun of seeries jernalism.

Fred Hiatt
Editeral Paj Editer
Washintin Post

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dog walk: 9/25/11

The calendar says we're three days into fall, but the thermometer says otherwise. It's 78 Fahrenheit, cloudy and humid in Newport. But lest you think all is perfect, there are also clouds of gnats floating around. Ugh!

There aren't as many tourists in town as you'd see in the summer, but there are still some. The Caribbean Princess does a week-long round trip cruise at this time of year, stopping at Newport every Sunday. The liner's shuttles dock at Perrotti Park, and you can always find some passengers chilling at the park. A walk through the park always results in passing comments on how cute the basenjis are.

While passing by the Newport Bay Club, we met Ariel the Jewelry Girl, who informed me, sadly, that this was her last day of handing out coupons. Since the dogs and I will be moving to Pennsylvania next month, and Ariel will be moving to Kentucky in November, this is our last visit with her. She knelt down on the sidewalk, took Klea in her lap, and gave her a long, last goodbye hug.

Crossing Spring Street near the Newport Public Library, the basenjis attracted the attention of a couple who had also just crossed the street. They were very taken with the basenjis, particularly with how well-behaved they were compared to their own Jack Russell terriers.

We passed by a woman trimming her lawn on King Street who asked whether the dogs were Shiba Inus. I explained that, no, they were African basenjis. I occasionally get asked if the dogs are Shibas, because the two breeds are about the same size, with pointy ears and curly tails. However, when you see the two breeds together, they don't really look that much alike.

The final highlight of the walk (for the dogs, at least), was a stop by one of the parking lots flanking the Brick Marketplace, where Louis and Klea got a milkbone each from the parking attendant. This is the reason the basenjis are so fond of parking lots; even lots that don't have attendants attract their attention, just on the off chance that treats might materialize anyway.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Still a good idea

Spreading santorum.

Because some pages can never have too many links.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Executing the innocent

It's how we remind Those People that they're still Those People.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Overheard on Facebook

"I'll believe corporations are people when Rick Perry executes one."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And it might be . . .

Going back to 1993 for today's embedded music video: "Here and Now" by Letters to Cleo.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dog walk: 9/18/11

A change in the weather has switched us from t-shirts and shorts to polo shirts and long pants during the dog walks. Today saw a couple of "are those basenjis?" incidents during the walk. The first was from a woman sitting outside the One Eighty restaurant on Broadway, who told me that her brother and sister-in-law had a basenji, and remarked that you didn't see many of them. The second was from a staffer from the International Boat Show as we were walking down America's Cup Avenue, who told us that a neighbor had had a basenji when she was growing up. The basenjis also got to meet a pair of baying basset hounds who were tied up outside Jonathan's Cafe in Washington Square.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Prophecy 8

The Prophecies of Johnny Pez continue, sowing confusion and fear among the troubled nations of the world:

In forty-nine years no judgment will bend
The silent dog in his exile will roam
No power in earth or heaven can send
A guardian angel to guide him home

The world trembles on the brink of oblivion, my friends. Do not doubt it.

(continue to Prophecy 9)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why should I vote for Obama after his banker friends take my house away?

This AP article on the political costs of the housing crisis makes a point that too many Democrats would like to ignore: the threat to President Obama's re-election isn't from liberal purity trolls, it's from ordinary people who have been hurt by Obama's policy of favoring a handful of financial institutions over everybody else.

As the article notes, there are a lot of people who have lost their homes, or are in danger of losing their homes, in swing states like Florida, Ohio, and Michigan. And I'll be one of them, after Bank of America takes away my home next month and I move from Rhode Island to Pennsylvania. For them, as for me, the question they're going to be asking themselves in the voting booth is, "Why should I vote for this guy after he let the bank take my home away?" The only answer the Obama apologists seem to have is "Rick Perry would be worse", but The Other Guy Is Worse is not a winning campaign slogan. Besides, it wasn't Rick Perry who let the bank take my home away. It was Barack Obama.

The problem, ultimately, is with Obama himself, who is the very model of a "big picture" guy. He prefers to focus on institutions rather than people. Indeed, he seems to regard people as an annoyance. When dealing with the housing crisis, Obama's concern was always focused on easing the pain of the financial institutions rather than the homeowners.

Unfortunately, Obama's lack of interest in people makes him probably the worst politician to occupy the White House since Herbert Hoover, another "big picture" guy who was more worried about institutions than people. And like Hoover, Obama is going to learn that it's people, not institutions, who re-elect presidents.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Stalemate your way to prosperity

Ingrid Robeyns at the Crooked Timber blog posts her latest piece on the political situation in Belgium. It's been fifteen months since the last election, and the country's political parties still haven't managed to form a regular government. The most fascinating aspect to the situation comes up in the comments, where it turns out that Belgium has the healthiest economy in the Eurozone.

The reason? Due to the political stalemate, nobody in Belgium has the authority to institute the austerity programs that are all the rage in the rest of the industrialized nations (including ours). Government spending in Belgium hasn't been slashed in the name of "fiscal responsibility", and as a result, the economy there is growing more than twice as fast as our own.

The lesson? Conservative government is worse than no government at all. We already knew that, but it's nice to have concrete proof.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Library in an eighteen-wheeler

I saw this parked outside the Newport Public Library last week while I was walking the dogs. How come nobody ever tells me about these things?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 and the cult of evil

There have always been people who think that evil is more effective than good, and who want to dispense with ethical behavior in the name of "practicality". The 9/11 attacks were a god-send to these people, because it gave them the perfect excuse to pursue their evil agenda. "The terrorists are the worst enemy America has ever faced," they claimed. "The terrorists are pure evil, and the only way we can fight back is by being evil ourselves." It helped that one of the most evil politicians in the country, Dick Cheney, was basically running the government.

So it was that the American government embraced the cult of evil: torture, and aggressive warfare, and the deliberate targeting of innocent victims. 24 gave the cult of evil a prominent place in popular culture, and introduced a new American "hero": Jack Bauer, the man who is always ready to torture a suspect, and who is always right to resort to torture.

The cult of evil has also spread to economic policy. Our political commentariat has nothing but praise for politicians who make the "hard choices" to make ordinary people suffer so that the wealthy can become even more wealthy. The willingness to inflict unnecessary pain on the helpless has become the cardinal political virtue of our times.

And now we've reached the point where the crowd at a Republican candidates debate not only cheers Rick Perry for exectuting hundreds of people, they cheered him for executing an innocent man, because "it takes balls to execute an innocent man".

So, welcome to the post-9/11 America: a land in thrall to the cult of evil.

Watch her move in elliptical patterns

Time for another embedded music video. From 2009 comes "1901" by Phoenix.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Confronting "The Menace from Andromeda"

There's nothing like a good alien invasion story, unless it's a good alien invasion story with an unusual twist. And that's what Nat Schachner and Arthur Leo Zagat gave the readers of Amazing Stories magazine when they picked up the April 1931 issue and read the cover story, "The Menace from Andromeda".

Space aliens invading the Earth was already a well-established science fiction trope when Schachner and Zagat wrote their story in 1930. The subgenre was established, as so many were, by H. G. Wells. The War of the Worlds, first serialized in 1897, set a pattern of alien invasions that was followed by G. McLeod Winson's Station X (1919), Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Moon Men (1925), Edmond Hamilton's "The Other Side of the Moon" (1929), and Harl Vincent's "The War of the Planets" (1929).

Schachner and Zagat gave the familiar story a twist, by replacing the invading alien race with Alcoreth, a single creature traveling through space as a cloud of spores, in a fictionalized version of Svante Arrhenius' panspermia hypothesis. Alcoreth was not looking to conquer the Earth so much as colonize it; and the most menacing aspect of the Menace from Andromeda was Alcoreth's complete indifference to the existence of humanity. As a collective being, Alcoreth may not even have been aware of the concept of individual life forms. The second section of the story is told from Alcoreth's point of view, and this is the story's most sustained bit of invention. Sadly, Schachner and Zagat never return the story to Alcoreth, so we never learn how she sees the new world she has settled on.

As my friend David Mix Barrington has noted in comments, Schachner and Zagat's view of the world nine years in their own future is considerably more advanced than the reality turned out to be. In their 1939, Columbia University has relocated to a 100-story skyscraper in Central Park, and New York City has a new City Hall Tower of 150 stories. Civil aviation is also more advanced, as Donald Standish owns a twin-engine aircraft that can apparently travel across North America without refueling. Finally, the various wars that plagued the real 1930s are absent from Schachner and Zagat's version. I think Schachner and Zagat, writing in 1930, expected the economic crisis of the time to right itself in fairly short order, which was what pretty much everyone from President Hoover on down expected to happen.

The President of the United States in 1939 was not a third Adams, but was a second Roosevelt, which counts as a near miss. In the story, the head of the U.S. Army (the actual title is Chief of Staff of the United States Army) in August 1939 was named General Black; in reality, it was General Malin Craig, like the fictional Black a grizzled veteran of World War I. On September 1, Craig was replaced by General George C. Marshall.

In the story, Alcoreth is finally defeated when Douglas Cameron infects her with cancer, in an echo of the defeat of Wells' Martians. This may count as one of the earliest descriptions of bacteriological warfare.

To a modern reader, one of the most appalling things in the story is the offhand treatment of Mary Cameron. After the trio return to Douglas Cameron's laboratory in Colorado, the two men send her off to bed after promising her that they'll bring her up to speed on their deliberations after she wakes up. They do no such thing. In fact, not only do they break their promise to Mary, they take off in Standish's plane while she's still asleep, leaving her completely in the dark about what's going on. One can imagine her waking to the sound of Standish's twin-engine plane taxiing out of the hanger, and rushing outside just in time to see it take off, cursing her faithless brother and fiance as it vanishes into the east. After that, it would take a greater miracle than the defeat of Alcoreth for Standish to convince Mary to go ahead with the marriage.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Talking about jobs

So, Paul Krugman was favorably impressed with Obama's jobs speech, which he described as "significantly bolder and better than I expected." I am less impressed, because I don't think Obama means a word of it.

Whenever Obama gets into trouble, he tries to speechify his way out, and that's what he's doing now. Obama knows that most of the fourteen million Americans who are out of work now voted for him because the expected him to help them. However, Obama has no intention of helping them. Obama and his fellow neoliberals have decided that the unemployment crisis is "structural" in nature, which is a fancy way of saying that a ten-percent unemployment rate is the new normal. What Obama really wants to do is shred the social safety net and turn America into an oversized Bangladesh. If he comes out and says so, though, it will leave his re-election campaign in the doldrums. So instead, he's making noises like he actually wants to do something about unemployment, knowing perfectly well that he can count on the Republicans to stop it from happening.

Make no mistake: if Obama is re-elected next year, his concerns about unemployment will vanish quicker than you can say "hope and change", and he'll be back to his deficitmania and his perpetual cycle of tax cuts and spending cuts. His talk about jobs is just that: talk, with no promise of any action.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dog walk: 9/7/11

In theory, the summer will continue until the autumn equinox on September 23. Practically, it ended two days ago on Labor Day. Reservations at the hotel have fallen off, and most of the tourists are gone from the streets of Newport.

As if to acknowledge the change, the bright, warm days ended on Monday, and since then it's been heavily overcast and raining off and on. During one of the recent no-rain-right-now periods, I took the dogs out for a brief walk. Despite the lack of tourists, despite spending most of our time in residential back streets, and despite only being out for twenty minutes, I still had two people ask me what kind of dogs the basenjis were.

"The Menace from Andromeda" by Schachner and Zagat, part 9

This is the ninth and final installment of "The Menace from Andromeda", the third published story by Nat Schachner and Arthur Leo Zagat. It originally appeared in the April 1931 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, and has never been republished.

As we join our story, the brilliant young astronomer Donald Standish has discovered that a planet in the Andromeda nebula he named Alcoreth is actually composed of living matter. However, since Alcoreth has disappeared, he is unable to prove it to the scientific community. He decides instead to discuss the matter with his fiancée Mary Cameron and her brother Douglas, a cancer researcher in Colorado.

Meanwhile, in the Andromeda nebula, Alcoreth is a self-aware mass of undifferentiated protoplasm occupying the entire surface of a planet. Facing starvation, she decides to convert her mass into countless spores and launch them into space to seed other planets. After millions of years, a cloud of spores from Alcoreth reaches Earth and comes to rest on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Eight months later, ships begin disappearing from the Atlantic and the world's trade is paralyzed. Then Alcoreth invades the East Coast of North America, consuming everything in her path.

Standish learns that Mary is in New York City, and he flies off to rescue her. Mary becomes trapped at the top of Columbia University's new 100-story skyscraper campus building, with Alcoreth eating away at its foundations. In a daring exhibition of stunt-flying and wing-walking, Standish rescues Mary, and they all fly west to Doug's laboratory in the Colorado Rockies. Once there, Doug comes up with a plan to drive Alcoreth back into the sea with ultraviolet lamps, then finish her off using cancer cells. The two fly to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where the first phase of the plan is a success . . .

* * *

From all the endangered nations came the glad tidings of complete triumph. Everywhere the crawling life had been forced into the waters.

Wild celebrations took place among the people of the earth. The names of Cameron and Standish were broadcast to the joyful millions as the saviors of humanity.

But the menace was by no means over -- though temporarily subdued. Orders were issued that no one was to approach within ten miles of the seaboards; and the armies of the world were placed on sentry duty to see that the orders were enforced.

At a conference at Pittsburgh, the temporary capital of the United States, Douglas Cameron told of his discoveries in cancer research; his activating principle; and outlined his plan of scattering the tissues of cancer into the floating masses of protoplasm. He was listened to with the most flattering attention. When he finished, President Adams arose, and grasped his hand and then that of his co-worker.

"Gentlemen," he said, his voice quivering with emotion, "you have already placed the world under an incalculable debt of gratitude to you; if you succeed in your present undertaking, and rid the earth of this frightful scourge, your names will go ringing down the ages as long as life exists on this planet. I have placed at your service a cruiser of our air fleet, fully manned and provisioned for a cruise of ten thousand miles. Go and God bless you!"

They bowed their thanks and left the meeting. In less than an hour they were seated in the cabin of the air cruiser, with their precious cabinet at their feet -- the crew sprang smartly to their posts -- and they took to the air.

The coast was reached in slightly over an hour, and they soon were winging their way out to sea.

The captain came into the cabin for instructions. "Drop to within five hundred feet of the water, and have your crew on the look-out for any traces of the beast. Have the first one to sight it sing it out."

"It shall be done," and he retired. The great plane glided down, and whirled over the surface of the ocean. All eyes were strained in eager search.

A shout from an excited lookout.

"The Thing's directly below, sir!" All hands rushed to the side. Sure enough -- the surface of the ocean to the east was heaving, and tossing -- a weird green light flickered and flared -- the sea crawled with the shiny evil Thing.

Quickly Cameron opened his cabinet and gingerly removed one of the dishes. Carrying it to the side, with one quick scoop, he ladled out the contents and threw it overboard. Down it spattered into the jellied mass -- scourge set to fight scourge.

For two days, the plane cruised over the broad Atlantic, dropping the seeds of destruction into the bosom of the visitation. When the last dishful had been dispatched on its errand, the cruiser turned homeward. Its work was done. The rest was in the lap of fate.

The people of the earth waited in deep anxiety. Men of science -- great biologists -- broadcast learned opinions to the listening multitudes.

Daily, clouds of speedy pursuit planes were flung over the broad bosom of the Atlantic to observe and report. Daily they reported no signs of disappearance. If anything, the areas of infestations seemed to be actually increasing. Once more fear reared its hideous head -- if the cancerous growths proved ineffectual -- it was only a question of time before the horrible Thing would once more approach the shores.

But, ten days later, an observation plane reported seeing hard fibrous growths, like huge warts, covering the surface in one area. Then, in quick succession, other reports came in. The cancer had commenced its deadly work. Within a month the ocean was covered with dead, cancerous masses -- the menace was a thing of the past. Slowly they heaved on the ocean tides, and slowly they sank beneath the waves. The earth was free of its hideous nightmare. The race was saved.

* * *

On a mild October morning a little group filed into the rustic church near the laboratory. A little group -- but every broadcast receiver, every television screen was attuned to the waves which were carrying each sound and sight in that church to every corner of the globe. All the people of the earth joined in a prayer for the good fortune of the couple whose wedding rites were being celebrated there. And as Mary Cameron became Mary Standish, all the earth joined in the hymn which welled out in a mighty chorus of thanksgiving whose echoing vibrations must have been heard even in far distant Andromeda.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"The Menace from Andromeda" by Schachner and Zagat, part 8

This is the eighth installment of "The Menace from Andromeda", the third published story by Nat Schachner and Arthur Leo Zagat. It originally appeared in the April 1931 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, and has never been republished.

As we join our story, the brilliant young astronomer Donald Standish has discovered that a planet in the Andromeda nebula he named Alcoreth is actually composed of living matter. However, since Alcoreth has disappeared, he is unable to prove it to the scientific community. He decides instead to discuss the matter with his fiancée Mary Cameron and her brother Douglas, a cancer researcher in Colorado.

Meanwhile, in the Andromeda nebula, Alcoreth is a self-aware mass of undifferentiated protoplasm occupying the entire surface of a planet. Facing starvation, she decides to convert her mass into countless spores and launch them into space to seed other planets. After millions of years, a cloud of spores from Alcoreth reaches Earth and comes to rest on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Eight months later, ships begin disappearing from the Atlantic and the world's trade is paralyzed. Then Alcoreth invades the East Coast of North America, consuming everything in her path.

Standish learns that Mary is in New York City, and he flies off to rescue her. Mary becomes trapped at the top of Columbia University's new 100-story skyscraper campus building, with Alcoreth eating away at its foundations. In a daring exhibition of stunt-flying and wing-walking, Standish rescues Mary, and they all fly west to Doug's laboratory in the Colorado Rockies. Once there, Doug comes up with a plan to drive Alcoreth back into the sea with ultraviolet lamps, then finish her off using cancer cells . . .

* * *

When they awoke, it was dusk. Mary was still asleep -- a peaceful smile flitting over her lips. Donald looked at her tenderly. "Let's not disturb her. Poor girl -- she has been through hell." He brushed her forehead lightly with his lips, and the smile grew into ecstacy, but still she did not awaken.

"Now to work!"

They hurried into the laboratory. Cameron opened the door of a huge glass-lined oven, thermostatically controlled at blood heat. In the interior were twenty or more glass dishes, each containing a mass of tissue floating in culture media.

"These are my cancer growths," he explained. "They will live indefinitely in the cultures. Now to activate them so that when we cast them into the protoplasmic horror, they will grow and proliferate with extreme rapidity."

He turned to a row of glass stoppered bottles on his laboratory shelf, and took one down. It was filled with a pale green liquid. Carefully, with a pipette, he dropped five drops into each dish. A slight bubbling ensued -- and then ceased.

"Bring that cabinet in the corner over here," he ordered, "and all the cotton wool you find in the end cupboards."

The cabinet was opened -- a layer of cotton placed on the bottom -- the cancer dishes placed carefully between layers of the soft material, and then the whole affair hermetically sealed.

"Now we're ready to go."

The two men quickly and silently donned their flying suits, and in short order the plane was trundled out of the hanger; the cabinet was carefully lifted into the cockpit, and they took their seats. The motor roared; and the plane took off on its flight across the continent.

Next morning, as the first rays of dawn appeared over the serried tops of the Alleghany Mts., the haggard, wearied travelers descended stiffly from their plane after landing on the air field outside Allentown.

For a moment they gazed about them in dazed astonishment. The place was seething with activity. Hundreds of planes were landing on all sides; tractors were lumbering and roaring over the field, soldiers and vast crowds of workmen swarmed in organized disorder.

"Where is the commander?" asked Donald of a big burly sergeant actively engaged in expending a stream of profanity at a company of men unpacking a huge searchlight.

"Over there!" He jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward the hanger at one end of the field, without deigning to turn around; and with hardly a pause in his flow of lurid objurgations.

"Come on, Doug, let's report at once, and see what we can do."

At the door, they gave their names to the guard, and were ushered in immediately.

Seated at a rough pine board table, hastily built to function as a desk, was General Black, grizzled veteran of the World War, now commander-in-chief of all the American Armies! Officers dashed in -- came to stiff salute -- reported in staccato accents -- received their orders even more crisply -- and dashed out again. A field radio receiving set whined. The general put the phone to his ear. "What's that -- only thirty miles away! All right -- report every fifteen minutes on its progress."

Turning around, he saw the two scientists. "Yes, what is it? Make it snappy!"

They introduced themselves, and the general's attitude became more cordial.

"I hope your ideas are correct -- if not, we're all doomed." He sighed. "Frankly, I'm not used to this sort of thing -- out of my line. Artillery -- machine guns -- gas -- yes! But not this new-fangled stuff.

"However, we'll soon find out," he continued grimly, "my air scouts report it as only thirty miles away. At the rate it is traveling, it will be here in forty-eight hours. We'll be ready for it in about thirty-six hours -- and then --" he shrugged fatalistically. "In the meantime, I'll get some quarters for you, and you can make yourselves comfortable until we're ready to start." He turned to an orderly, and soon the scientists were installed in a barrack-like room -- their plane with its precious freight wheeled into the hanger, and placed under guard.

The next thirty-six hours were filled with feverish activity. All through the day and night, tractors kept coming in -- apparatus and the requisite machines were deposited from planes -- railroads -- automobiles -- every conceivable method of transportation.

In the meantime the radio reports were becoming more and more alarming. Inexorably the living tide was moving forward -- swallowing everything in its path. Twenty miles away -- fifteen miles -- activity becoming frantic -- ten miles -- five miles -- the last feverish touches -- and all was in readiness for the supreme effort.

As far as the eye could see, stretched serried ranks of tractors. Along the whole Appalachian range, thousands of tractors were ready to go at the signal of command. On each was perched a powerful searchlight or violet ray machine capable of casting directional beams over a ten-mile radius. The final orders were given -- everyone not directly concerned in the management of the apparatus was sent to the rear.

It was the zero hour!

Already in the distance, the horizon was glowing with the dreaded greenish light -- the vast menace was flowing -- flowing forward.

A hush fell on the embattled array. Could they stop it -- was it victory or disaster? The bravest among them felt clammy hands clutching their hearts.

The radio command roared its voice along the far-flung line. The motors roared -- the current snapped on -- and a blaze of light -- intense -- penetrating -- flared out up and down the line. Another command -- and the tractors moved forward -- slowly -- steadily. A ten-mile zone of intense illumination -- blinding in its glare -- moved ahead. It approached the green luminescence. Still the monstrous life flowed forward.

Nerves tensed to the snapping points -- blood pounded in thousands of hearts -- God! -- would it have no effect -- the life of the planet hung on the next few moments.

The wall of light reached the oncoming wall of alien life -- touched it -- overlapped it -- swung over the top and over its viscous waves. Only three miles separated the opposing forces!

Was it a delusion? Did they see aright? A rustling murmur grew on the scene -- a confused Babel of voices -- and then -- a mighty shout blasted the air -- a pean of deliverance -- the world was saved!

The oncoming mass had definitely ceased moving -- the front reared high into the air -- writhing and twisting as though in agony -- and then -- recession -- slow at first -- then faster and faster -- the monster was in full retreat -- vainly seeking to escape the deadly rays.

Immediately the jubilant army moved forward -- ever concentrating the dazzling light on the discomfited foe. Who thought of food -- or sleep or stopping -- back into the sea with the monster! For two days and a night, the front of war advanced -- steadily the enemy was driven back -- remorselessly as ever it had advanced -- agonized, writhing before the avenging glare. Once more the face of the earth appeared -- but strange, alien in aspect -- more like some desolate moon aridly moving through space, than this fair, smiling world of ours. No trees -- no houses -- no verdure was left; the very surface of the earth was eroded away -- pitted and scarred with deep holes and gullies, through which the tractors floundered and pitched.

Back -- back through the ruin of what had once been New York -- into the sea it was driven -- and the world was temporarily saved from overwhelming disaster.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"The Menace from Andromeda" by Schachner and Zagat, part 7

This is the seventh installment of "The Menace from Andromeda", the third published story by Nat Schachner and Arthur Leo Zagat. It originally appeared in the April 1931 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, and has never been republished.

As we join our story, the brilliant young astronomer Donald Standish has discovered that a planet in the Andromeda nebula he named Alcoreth is actually composed of living matter. However, since Alcoreth has disappeared, he is unable to prove it to the scientific community. He decides instead to discuss the matter with his fiancée Mary Cameron and her brother Douglas, a cancer researcher in Colorado.

Meanwhile, in the Andromeda nebula, Alcoreth is a self-aware mass of undifferentiated protoplasm occupying the entire surface of a planet. Facing starvation, she decides to convert her mass into countless spores and launch them into space to seed other planets. After millions of years, a cloud of spores from Alcoreth reaches Earth and comes to rest on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Eight months later, ships begin disappearing from the Atlantic and the world's trade is paralyzed. Then Alcoreth invades the East Coast of North America, consuming everything in her path.

Standish learns that Mary is in New York City, and he flies off to rescue her. Mary becomes trapped at the top of Columbia University's new 100-story skyscraper campus building, with Alcoreth eating away at its foundations. In a daring exhibition of stunt-flying and wing-walking, Standish rescues Mary, and they all fly west to Doug's laboratory in the Colorado Rockies . . .

* * *

Physically exhausted as they were by the long journey, there was yet no thought of sleep. They were still shaking with the horror of those frightful scenes they had so recently witnessed.

Mary was tottering with weariness, but held herself bravely. Not for worlds would she permit her lover to see how near the verge of hysteria she was, now that the danger was past. She looked around the long comfortable room -- cheery fireplace and all -- with a shudder. How peaceful and quiet everything was -- and over there -- nameless horrors out of hell -- the indescribable stampede of maddened humanity -- the hideous screech of some poor devil engulfed by the advancing monster -- no, no! -- that way lay madness -- she must stop.

Donald was watching her anxiously. "Mary, you must get some sleep at once."

"I'm all right -- just a little attack of nerves," she smiled wanly. "Don't trouble yourself about me; I want to help, too."

"We'll puzzle this out ourselves, and when you wake, if we've evolved any ideas, we'll let you in on it. Now, be a good girl and go to bed. Haven't you something soothing in your lab?" he turned to Douglas.

"Certainly; just the thing for you, Mary. Douglas went to the cupboard and poured out a small tumbler full of a pale liquid. "Just drink this down, and you'll slide so smoothly into the arms of Morpheus, the next thing you know the birds will be twittering in the trees. Here you are; take it."

Mary looked at them both for a moment -- saw the worry in their eyes, and capitulated. "All right, boys, if you insist; though I'm sure I can be of help." She drank the potion, and retired to her bedroom.

The two men filled their pipes, and settled back in their chairs. Their bodies were poisoned with fatigue, but their brains were racing keenly. For a while they smoked in silence, gratefully inhaling the fragrant fumes.

Standish was the first to break the silence.

"As you know, Doug, I have a theory that accounts for this demoniac visitation, but when I sprang it on the conference, I was laughed at for my pains."

Douglas looked at him keenly. He knew his chum, and knew that he was not given to hazarding wild hypotheses unless they contained a solid substratum of truth.

"Go over it again," he said quietly. "I promise to listen with an open mind."

Donald launched again into his tale -- the strange living star in the island universe -- its explosive disintegration into space -- the queer dust cloud of tiny globules reported by the fishing smack -- followed by the appearance of this horrible amorphous life-mass that was threatening to engulf the earth.

Cameron listened intently. Thoughtfully he drummed with his fingers on the arm of his chair. He, too, was familiar with the hypotheses of Clerk-Maxwell and Arrhenius.

"There is a good deal of plausibility about your theory," he acknowledged thoughtfully, "and it accounts also for the vast proliferating powers of this monstrous mass -- no life as we know it on this planet could even approximate the uncanny speed of its growth, nor have our primitive life-forms the ability to subsist on inorganic matter to quite the extent that it has," again absently drumming on his chair.

He relapsed into brooding thought. Standish looked at his friend, but forebore to say anything. When Cameron was on the verge of something brilliant, he always drummed. So the astronomer waited.

The break was not long in coming. Douglas' brow suddenly cleared -- a look of triumph in his eye.

"By George, I have it!" he almost shouted. "I believe your fantastic story, old man, and I'm going to rid the world of this menace. Listen to me for a moment."

"You have my closest attention."

"Suppose we assume the truth of your hypothesis. Then this living world, moving in the Andromeda universe, shining by its own luminosity, separated by unthinkable distances from any hot gaseous star, would naturally be accustomed only to the faint starlight of the heavens. No such blaze of light as even our ordinary sunlight ever came within its ken. Now you've heard of phototropism?"

Standish nodded his head, but his friend went on heedlessly, absorbed in the plan maturing in his mind.

"It's the reaction of protoplasm to light," he explained. "If you take any unicellular animal like the amoeba, and expose it to a strong light, it will shrink away from the source of the light, and try to get out of its path. If you use a powerful ray of concentrated ultraviolet light -- the reaction will be much more apparent -- the amoeba will literally run for its life -- and if exposed long enough to the rays, will die.

"Now if we can obtain such drastic results with life forms inured and habituated by constant exposure to the sun's rays continually beating on our planet, what about this alien protoplasmic mass, unaccustomed to strong light of any kind, and no doubt feeling irritable even during our normal sunshine?"

Standish sat up excitedly. He was beginning to catch the drift of Cameron's reasoning.

Douglas went on. "My plan is this. Have the nations of the world concentrate their technicians and engineers in the power plants and factories most remote from the menace. Construct huge searchlights of the utmost candle power; and machines for casting enormous beams of ultra-violet light. In the meantime have the people of the areas endangered by the billowing march of the monster retreat to the mountain fastnesses. That can be done fairly easily -- its progress from all reports is approximately ten to fifteen miles a day. When all is in readiness, mount our machines on tractors, and drive them in front of the encroaching fiend. When it comes within striking distance, turn on the juice full blast. The power will come by tuned radio waves from the power plants operating in the hinterland. If our theories are correct, on the impact of our rays, the viscid mass will react much more violently than an amoeba or paramecium would. Retreat would be all it would think of, and the more exposed masses would be killed off. In that way, we could get rid of the menace, or at least drive it back into the ocean, by following it steadily all the way."

Standish got up in enthusiasm, and wrung Cameron's hand. "Boy, you're a wizard! That's a marvelous scheme! You'll be the savior of the world!"

"Hold on a moment," Douglas smiled protestingly, "it may work and it may not. Remember, I'm basing my scheme on your hypothesis."

"It'll work all right," retorned Donald confidently, "and now I know I'm right, too."

"Don't run away so fast," warned the bacteriologist. "Remember, at the best, we shall only have managed to drive it back into the ocean. Once there, we can do no more. There, in the vast depths of the sea, with what we know of the rapidity of its procreation, it will once more overwhelm the world."

Donald groaned. "There you go -- get me all excited, and then you let me down. I forgot that part. So what's the good of your swell scheme?"

"Ah! but I have something else up my sleeve," grinned his companion. "You know, of course, that I've been working my head off trying to find a cure for cancer. I haven't succeeded as yet -- though the outlook is promising. But in the course of my researches, I've invented a technique for excising cancer growths from the living organism, and growing them independently in special culture media. I have also discovered a method of activating them so that when replaced in living tissues they will multiply with unbelievable rapidity. At present, I have on hand here in the laboratory about fifty pounds of activated cancer cultures, and that is sufficient for my purpose.

"Now to get back to your theory again. If this visitation is in truth from an alien world, it is highly improbable that it was ever exposed to the disease of cancer. If that is so, then it lacks whatever immunity our life has obtained through constant exposure, and the cancer cells will spread like wildfire through the whole vast organism -- and this malign influence will be eradicated from the face of the earth."

"Man, I repeat -- you're a wizard!" The astronomer pumped his hand violently. Then an idea struck him. "But why not spray it with cancer immediately -- why bother with ultra-violet light to drive it into the depths of the sea."

"Because," explained Douglas patiently, "cancer is no respecter of persons, and once let loose on land, it is liable to spread to all forms of earth life, and we shall only have succeeded in destroying ourselves too. In the ocean, however, the range is sharply limited -- we shall instruct the people of the earth to remain inland until the danger is passed. Once killed, the whole mass will descend to the floors of the seas and there the cold and pressure will destroy the cancerous tissues."

"You've thought of everything," was the admiring retort.

"Now to get into immediate communication with the conference chairman and unfold our plan."

"Right -- there's not a moment to lose. The fate of the world is in the balance."

In a few minutes, the radio transmitter was sputtering out the code call signal of the conference. A lapse of five minutes and word came back. "Radio Emergency Conference talking -- what is it?"

"Standish sending from the laboratory of Cameron in Colorado. Plan for combating menace has been evolved. Please connect me with the chairman." Then, for a solid hour across the ether vibrated the saving word.

Back came the answer. "Sounds all right. Our last hope anyway. Broadcasting immediately to all the nations to mobilize tractor, searchlights, ultra-violet apparatus. United States will mobilize on eastern length of Appalachian within twenty-four hours. Both of you report for service immediately at Allentown, Pa. Last reports show inundation extended as far as Scranton. Signing off."

"We need some sleep -- let's snatch a few hours -- and start," suggested Standish.

"Righto, we can get there in fifteen hours. We'll need only an hour or two for assembling our material here. That gives us plenty of time for a snooze."

Almost instantaneously, both were sleeping -- drugged.

Dog walk: 9/4/11

Technically, Labor Day itself is the last day of Labor Day weekend, but the Sunday before is the last "I don't have to go to work tomorrow" day for most people. It's basically a second Saturday.

Walking the dogs on Sunday afternoon, I was able to take part in the second Saturday of Labor Day weekend. It was a mostly-overcast day in the 70s, pretty much ideal for dog-walking. All the debris from Hurricane Irene had been cleared away, and everybody was out having a good time. Walking down Thames Street, we could hear the sound of the Newport Waterfront Irish Festival going on at the Newport Yachting Center. The festival was responsible for the bumper-to-bumper traffic that turned America's Cup Avenue into a parking lot (something that always gives me a schadenfreude lift when I'm on foot).

In front of the Newport Bay Club, the dogs and I ran into Ariel, a girl who hands out buy-one-get-one-free coupons for the Jewelry Boutique there. Ariel has fallen in love with the basenjis, and we always stop and say hello to her so she can hug and pet them. She hasn't quite managed to convince them to give her kisses, but she's working on it.

We don't usually walk all the way down to King Park, but today we did, and we found a Beatles cover band called Abbey Rhode giving a concert there. The dogs and I wandered through the crowd while listening to covers of "Honey Don't", "Nowhere Man", and "I'm Only Sleeping" among others.

Coming back down Thames Street, I was astonished to run into another basenji, a red-and-white boy named Sasha. Sadly, Sasha did not get along with other dogs, so Louis and Klea weren't able to say proper hellos to him.

The day's musical theme continued on the Long Wharf Mall, where we found a woman performing a solo violin with a recorded accompaniment. The music followed us all the way up Washington Square.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How not to book a hotel room II

From the daytime staff comes the following story:

Yesterday, a guest who was due to check out asked if he could extend his stay by another night. When he was informed that the hotel was booked solid and that he could not, he became very angry, to the point of threatening to burn down the hotel. Strangely enough, this argument failed to persuade the management to allow him to stay.

"The Menace from Andromeda" by Schachner and Zagat, part 6

This is the sixth installment of "The Menace from Andromeda", the third published story by Nat Schachner and Arthur Leo Zagat. It originally appeared in the April 1931 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, and has never been republished.

As we join our story, the brilliant young astronomer Donald Standish has discovered that a planet in the Andromeda nebula he named Alcoreth is actually composed of living matter. However, since Alcoreth has disappeared, he is unable to prove it to the scientific community. He decides instead to discuss the matter with his fiancée Mary Cameron and her brother Douglas, a cancer researcher in Colorado.

Meanwhile, in the Andromeda nebula, Alcoreth is a self-aware mass of undifferentiated protoplasm occupying the entire surface of a planet. Facing starvation, she decides to convert her mass into countless spores and launch them into space to seed other planets. After millions of years, a cloud of spores from Alcoreth reaches Earth and comes to rest on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Eight months later, ships begin disappearing from the Atlantic and the world's trade is paralyzed. Then Alcoreth invades the East Coast of North America, consuming everything in her path.

Standish learns that Mary is in New York City, and he flies off to rescue her. Mary becomes trapped at the top of Columbia University's new 100-story skyscraper campus building, with Alcoreth eating away at its foundations . . .

* * *

All this time the yellow sport plane had been rushing across the continent, sliding down the radio beacon from New York. Intent on the path ahead, the two leather clad figures bent over the dashboard. No talk, for the muffler had been cut for greater speed. No talk, but the thoughts of the two were identical. "What's happening in New York? What's happening to Mary? Is she safe?" Over and over these thoughts reiterated themselves in the weary brains. These two great scientists, in whose intellects lay perhaps the saving of the world, had forgotten everything save that wisp of a girl in New York, sister of one and sweetheart of the other.

At last the Appalachians appeared, passed beneath them, fell away behind them. Night had come. Donald who had yielded his place at the stick to Cameron, suddenly clutched his companion's arm and pointed ahead. On the horizon there pulsated a greenish glow. Standish's mind flew back to that star in Andromeda, whose passing he had watched months before. Here again he saw the light whose components he had analyzed in his gas spectroscope! The plane was headed directly for New York, and straight ahead of them the luminescence was at its brightest!

Ten minutes now, and they were circling over the great city. From the bay to Westchester, from the Palisades east to the sea, the city was invested. As far north as the ridge of giant erections about 42nd Street the smooth expanse of the phosphorescent sea told of the progress of destruction.

Cameron reached for the lever which silenced the roaring exhaust of the twin engines.

"If only we're in time; if only she is still in my lab. I'm going to go past the windows and see."

Throttled down to its slowest flying speed, the little plane dipped gracefully past the doomed tower rising high above the glowing rectangle of the park. Not twenty feet from the tower it glided. And there, in the window which both men sought so eagerly, was the figure they had hardly hoped would be there!

Up again then for consultation. "Doug, how close can we get to that window?" "I'll get within a foot, or we'll all go to hell together." "Then do it, and I'll get her out, but first tell her what we plan. Get a flashlight; she knows the Morse Code. Remember how I used to signal her in the old days?"

"A long slow glide now, about 500 feet away, lucky that your window faces the park." Cameron obeyed, while the astronomer flashed his dots and dashes. "On the sill, ready to jump." A wave of the brave little hand signalling understanding. Then up again.

Up to 5000 feet and a mile away. Then while Standish creeps out to the end of the wing, the motor is shut off and a long glide begun. Down, on a long slant, straight for that pinnacle rising sheer ahead. Down, ever down, with increasing speed hurtles the plane. A miracle of accurate steering, another miracle of perfect timing, and sheer muscular strength are required. Stark courage from all three, or the gallant attempt at rescue must end in disaster. Will they, can they do it? Too near -- and a crash; too far and a new attempt cannot be made. For see, already the great tower sways with approaching dissolution.

Perfect aiming, the plane almost grazes the side of the tower. Perfect execution -- a hundred feet from the window on whose sill Mary stands, one hand clinging to the sash, the other outstretched; the ship dips, then suddenly rising, almost stalls directly opposite the opening. Perfect timing -- the hand of the man on the wing grips the hand of the girl on the sill; a leap, a tug, and there are now two on the wing. Frantically Cameron works at the controls; frantically the lovers cling to the taut surface of the fabric on which they sprawl. Overbalanced, the craft reels drunkenly. Then the roar of the motor, the wings grip the air, and all is safe.

As Cameron zoomed upward, the hundred-story University rocks in ever-widening arcs; then slowly, slowly it begins to fall. Intact, entire, as it had for so short a time soared over the City, so it falls. Slowly at first, then with gradually increasing speed the great structure falls, until with a rush almost too fast for the eye to follow, it crashes into the lucent tide.

Into the little cockpit tumble the lovers, trembling, exhausted with their supreme effort. Cameron too, is trembling, but he must guide the ship with its precious freight. Westward now they turn, westward through the horrible night.

And now for the first time, they can look about them and take stock. The air is thick with darting planes, fleeing westward from the scourge. Below them not a house that is not ablaze with light, not a highway that is not jammed with rushing conveyances, not a railroad which is not crammed with hurrying trains, westward every one. Looking behind, from north to south, in the wide sweep which their height of 7000 feet allowed them, nothing but that terrible spectral green light, nothing but that immense sea, not of water, but of all-devouring jelly, come across that vast infinity of interstellar space to harry the earth and conquer it. And overhead the black velvet sky, and the stars, gleaming still in the wide arch of the heavens as they did when Earth was a whirling mass, as they still shall when this ball is nought but a cold, dead thing.

"Switch on the communication receiver C; let's hear what the news broadcast says."

"U.S. News Service. Bulletin 1248.

"The entire eastern coasts of North and South America are now completely covered with the jelly. Extent of the investment from ten miles to twenty-five. Spain and southern France are being slowly covered; the rest of the western coast of Europe penetrated only from a mile to five."

"U.S. News Service. Bulletin 1249.

"The scientific conference is still in session. No solution has as yet been arrived at, but the chairman wishes to announce that the people of the earth need not despair; progress is being made. Donald Standish, the noted astronomer, is still unaccountably missing. It is requested that any one having information as to his present location communicate at once with 2 AG, the government intelligence station."

Mary turned to Donald, in whose arms she was still being tightly held. "Oh, Don, why did you leave your post for me. The world needs you, why did you leave it for me?"

"Dear, if you had gone, the rest of the world could have followed for all of me. But now, now that you're safe, we must get back. I've got a hunch that Doug and I together can arrive at the right thing to do. We can't land now. Once down in that mob we'd never be able to take off again. Besides, neither of us can think straight just yet; too much has happened in the last thirty hours. We'll soon be home now, and we'll get busy. Drive her, Doug."

Now the sun had overtaken them and a new day was begun. Close ahead rose the peaks of the Rockies, among them the mountain on which perched Cameron's wilderness laboratory. A long spiral, and the little ship of the air dropped gently on the landing field at its door.

The passengers debarked stiffly from the flight plane, then Douglas taxied it into the hanger. Emerging promptly, the three of them entered the house.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

How not to book a hotel room

It's Labor Day Weekend, 11:00 PM on a Saturday night in Newport, Rhode Island.

Here's a tip from someone who knows: it's too late now to book a hotel room for the night. They're all gone.

"The Menace from Andromeda" by Schachner and Zagat, part 5

This is the fifth installment of "The Menace from Andromeda", the third published story by Nat Schachner and Arthur Leo Zagat. It originally appeared in the April 1931 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, and has never been republished.

As we join our story, the brilliant young astronomer Donald Standish has discovered that a planet in the Andromeda nebula he named Alcoreth is actually composed of living matter. However, since Alcoreth has disappeared, he is unable to prove it to the scientific community. He decides instead to discuss the matter with his fiancée Mary Cameron and her brother Douglas, a cancer researcher in Colorado.

Meanwhile, in the Andromeda nebula, Alcoreth is a self-aware mass of undifferentiated protoplasm occupying the entire surface of a planet. Facing starvation, she decides to convert her mass into countless spores and launch them into space to seed other planets. After millions of years, a cloud of spores from Alcoreth reaches Earth and comes to rest on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Eight months later, ships begin disappearing from the Atlantic and the world's trade is paralyzed. Then Alcoreth invades the East Coast of North America, consuming everything in her path. Standish learns that Mary is in New York City, and he flies off to rescue her . . .

* * *

In New York the streets were packed with pale-faced throngs. Although every home had its receiver, the desire for the companionship of others had sent the entire population into the streets. The public loud-speakers, the newspaper bulletin boards were the nuclei of the masses. As one item after another of disaster was broadcast by the news-purveying agencies, a groan would rise from the crowds and then silence would come again. For these were silent crowds; the magnitude of the calamity had stricken the people dumb.

Forcing her way through the packed masses and into the hundred story tower which Columbia University had just occupied, was Mary Cameron. Astounded on her arrival bby the terrific news of calamity, she was anxiously intent upon completing her errand and speeding her plane back to her brother. But tremendous difficulties had delayed her. Traffic was well-nigh suspended. It had taken an enormous bribe to persuade a taxi-driver to undertake the journey from the Governor's Island landing field, through the vehicular tunnel and up Broadway to the new educational centre in what had been Central Park. Held to a snail-like pace by the masses which packed the streets from building line to building line, the trip had taken hours. But now, at dusk, she had reached her goal.

The great building was deserted. But the doors of an elevator stood open and she could operate the simple mechanism. Swiftly she rose through the hundred floors of this latest apotheosis of education to where, in the very tip of the soaring tower, Cameron's home laboratory was located. She unlocked the door, and entered the room. Quickly dropping her close-fitting cap and leather flying suit she began to assemble the bottles and jars listed on the slip which she had brought from the mountain retreat she had left the night before. But the strain of twenty-four hours of flying by sight and of the terrific scenes she had just witnessed suddenly told on even her wiry constitution, and she dropped into a chair for a moment's rest. She closed her eyes -- in a moment she was sound asleep.

Startled awake by a roar which, ascending from a thousand feet below, rattled the windows with the force given it by millions of throats, she found the room glowing with a green and spectral light. The usual murmur of the great city had changed to a terrific tumult in which she could sense a terrible agony of fear even at this alpine height. She ran to the window. Night had fallen, but it was not dark. From far below came the green light, a glowing luminescence, which reminded her of some rotting fungus which she had one night found in the woods near Cameron's laboratory. The glowing material made a gridiron there beneath, filling the streets south and west, till it merged in sheets of green flame where she knew the harbor and rivers lay. Immediately beneath her the streets were still clear, but bathed in that unearthly light she could see black streams. In the cupboard she knew her brother had a pair of binoculars. Quickly getting them, she focussed them on the black streams. She saw people, thousands, tens of thousands, rushing north, shouting in a frenzy of terror, and there, only a little south, the glowing green light pouring up the streets, towering far above the hurrying struggling mobs, moving with incredible swiftness, engulfing the stragglers. The menace had reached New York!

She swept the glasses north whence came a rolling as of thunder. Far up the Sound she could see flashes -- the forts at the upper end of the city were fighting their big guns. South again, and below, quiet now, the glowing jelly had filled the streets. New York was dead.

"Well, I'm in a fine fix now! I'm safe enough here, but how am I going to get away. Probably starve to death. Well that's better than being swallowed up by that thing down there."

A terrific crash downtown came to her startled ears; then almost before she could turn, another, and another. Down on the tip of the Island, where first Manhattan had reached toward the sky, there was a clear space where the 85-story Bank of Manhattan building had been. Woolworth too was gone, and all the mountainous structures below. As she gazed, she saw the 150-story City Hall Tower, just completed, sway, then, like some giant of the forest felled after centuries of growth by the woodman's axe, topple over, and gathering speed, crash into the lambent sea which bathed its foot. As it struck the surface of the quivering flood of light there was a tremendous splash, and through the air for hundreds of feet flew huge glowing fragments. They fell on the roofs and the serried façades of the buildings for blocks around, and then, to Mary's horror, they spread, and wherever the patches of light lay the sturdy structures of steel and granite began to melt.

"Good God! I'm not so safe after all. The ghastly stuff eats even the material of which these buildings are made. I wonder how long this place will last. I guess it's finish for me."